What is DevSecOps?

5 min. read

From manual deployments and large-scale releases to automated and more frequent releases, software development has transformed significantly over the past few years as organizations move to the cloud. Development and operations teams have discovered systems and tactics that help them work more efficiently, reduce costs, and produce high-quality results.

However, traditional methods of security are not a fit for this new agile method. With the rise of security incidents and high-profile data breaches, organizations quickly realized that security is an essential need during software development and deployment. In turn, the DevSecOps movement has gained popularity and presents the ideal, secure solution.

DevSecOps allows organizations to maintain their pace of development at the speed of the cloud while reducing risk and integrating security directly into the DevOps pipeline.

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps, short for Development Security Operations, refers to the concept of making software security a core part of the overall software development process. Traditionally, security reviews were added separately and often after the software was fully developed and integrated. Developers would write the code, and IT teams would deploy it without taking security into account. It was only after the software was written and placed in production environments that security engineers would check for potential vulnerabilities in the code.

This approach to software security quickly became highly inefficient and even dangerous – especially in cloud environments, where the speed of deployment is greatly accelerated. If a security problem was detected, it would require the tedious task of withdrawing code that had already been written and deployed. This also meant problems fell under the radar and were only noticed after the software was already in production. Such a process was notorious for leaving organizations exposed to security risks and threats.

DevSecOps Definition

The DevSecOps approach addresses security problems immediately by integrating security into all stages of software delivery. DevSecOps is also referred to as ‘shift left’ security, which simply means moving security to the earliest possible point in the development process. This ensures that developers think about security when they write code, that software is tested for security problems before it is deployed, and that IT teams have plans in place for addressing security issues quickly if they appear after deployment.

DevSecOps vs DevOps

DevOps is the idea that developers and IT teams should work together closely, instead of functioning separately. DevSecOps extends the same core concept to include security throughout the development process. Both DevOps and DevSecOps are tactical approaches to software and IT operations.

DevSecOps and DevOps are not tools or processes, but rather mindsets that create a culture. Specifically, DevOps and DevSecOps boil down to instilling the right cultural values in an organization. In a well-run IT organization, DevOps and security operations should reinforce each other by identifying and pursuing goals that are mutually beneficial. Doing so provides a common language in the form of shared metrics that both teams can use to measure their progress toward collective goals.

For DevSecOps, developers, IT teams, security specialists, and everyone else involved in software delivery must be on board with the idea that software security should be at the forefront of everything they do. Before making any decision related to an application, the entire team should think about the security implications. If they do, they have achieved DevSecOps.

What is DevOps?

DevOps unites development and operations teams throughout the entire software delivery process. This method enables them to discover and remediate issues earlier, automate testing and deployment, and reduce time to market.

DevOps is a set of practices established to bridge the gap between software development and IT operations. The strategies produced by DevOps have opened the doors for new, more automated methods of development and deployment of applications. This methodology has helped break down barriers and allow for better communication between the teams, especially with the integration of the CI/CD pipeline.

What Is SecOps?

SecOps, short for Security Operations, is a collaborative framework that combines Security and Operations teams, stemming from a similar concept of DevSecOps but without the Dev component. While organizations with dev teams are likely the most common applicants of DevSecOps, dev teams are not a requirement for an organization to implement security measures.

SecOps is often viewed as the first step towards adopting a security-focused operating model. To adopt SecOps, organizations must abandon the concept of individual departments and lean towards a unified approach.

What is the CI/CD Pipeline?

CI/CD stands for continuous integration and continuous delivery and is the process used by leading software development teams today. The CI/CD pipeline integrates development and operations teams to improve productivity by automating infrastructure and workflows, as well as continuously measuring application performance.

CI/CD workflows track code that is committed to triggering build, test and deploy phases. The whole process is automated and easily identifies which environments (test, staging, or production) to target. To effectively implement DevSecOps means to embrace DevOps and integrate security into the full CI/CD development pipeline.

Why DevSecOps Practices Are Important

It’s not uncommon that security tends to be deprioritized and ends up falling through the organizational cracks. Developers move quickly, and their workflows are often automated. Security is seen as a separate team, and developers don’t want to slow down for additional security checks and requests. Many developers deploy without going through the proper security channels. In turn, they inevitably make harmful security mistakes.

DevSecOps is the ideal solution that allows developers to maintain their development and deployment speed without compromising data security. However, when trying to implement DevSecOps, most organizations receive resistance from their developer teams. This is where the right tool, and the right approach, can serve as a catalyst for a DevSecOps transformation.

Five Guidelines to DevSecOps Implementation

Implementing DevSecOps requires organization-wide contribution, as well as efficiently integrated workflows and toolsets that may already be in place. The ideal DevSecOps combination differs with each organization’s needs. However, there are five general strategies that will help with the implementation of a DevSecOps culture:

  1. Education: It’s important to make sure that all stakeholders in the software delivery process understand modern security threats and the importance of addressing them, which is why continuous education is key to a smooth operation.
  2. Communication: Building effective communication channels between all team members will nurture information sharing within the team. Additionally, communication pertaining to DevSecOps metrics and security issues will be much quicker and more efficient.
  3. Security protocols: Developing “protocols” that specify how different team members should respond to a given type of security incident will alleviate miscommunication and misunderstanding between the teams.
  4. Audits and compliance: Making security audits and compliance checks a routine part of the software delivery process will streamline the overall DevSecOps process and include additional guardrails for the team to adhere to.
  5. DevSecOps tools: Finding API-based cloud security tools will help automate the enforcement of security and compliance policies in the cloud. The right tools will make the transition to and maintenance of DevSecOps simple, efficient, and cost-saving for the organization.

Finding the Best DevSecOps Tools

DevSecOps requires a unified and integrated approach to deliver full-stack, full lifecycle security. The best DevSecOps tools should integrate with any CI/CD workflow to secure cloud infrastructure and applications early in development. These tools should support container-based frameworks, detect vulnerabilities, monitor compliance, and have the ability to scale with your infrastructure for the long term.

At the end of the day, it’s critical to remember that DevSecOps is a shift in mindset more than anything else. A DevSecOps tool or solution will only work if the entire enterprise has bought into the idea of baking security into their DevOps process. Those that do will see gains not only in the security but in productivity, cost, and efficiency for their entire organization.

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DevSecOps FAQs

Automation in DevSecOps streamlines the integration of security practices into the development and operations workflow. By using automated tools for code analysis, testing, and deployment, DevSecOps minimizes manual intervention, ensuring that security checks and balances occur at every phase of the software development lifecycle. Automation facilitates consistent security enforcement, rapid vulnerability remediation, and efficient delivery of secure software.
Continuous integration (CI) is a development practice where developers frequently merge code changes into a central repository, triggering automated builds and tests. CI detects integration errors as quickly as possible, enhancing software quality and reducing the time to deliver new updates. It forms the foundation for the continuous delivery of applications to production environments.
Continuous delivery (CD) extends continuous integration by automatically deploying all code changes to a testing or production environment after the build stage. CD enables developers to ensure that their code is always in a deployable state, facilitating a more seamless and speedy delivery to end users. It bridges the gap between development and operations, fostering a more agile and responsive software lifecycle.
Continuous deployment is the automatic release of validated changes to production, without the need for manual intervention. It's a step beyond continuous delivery, where every change that passes all stages of the production pipeline is released to customers. This practice accelerates the feedback loop and improves the release process's efficiency and reliability.
Security as code involves defining and managing security policies and operational procedures as code within the development pipeline. This approach allows for the automated and consistent application of security measures, such as configuration management, access controls, and compliance standards. Security as code enables real-time threat response and aligns security practices with DevSecOps goals.
Infrastructure as code (IaC) is the practice of managing and provisioning computing infrastructure through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools. IaC streamlines the setup and maintenance of infrastructure, ensuring environments are reproducible, scalable, and consistent. It is a key component of modern cloud environments, allowing for the rapid and reliable deployment of infrastructure resources.
Compliance as code is the practice of coding regulatory and policy requirements into automated checks within the CI/CD pipeline. By integrating these checks, organizations ensure that every release adheres to necessary compliance standards, which significantly reduces manual review processes and audit times. It also brings transparency and traceability to the compliance aspect of software development, allowing for consistent enforcement and swift remediation of non-compliance.
Policy as code (PaC) encapsulates corporate and regulatory policies in code form to automate the enforcement and verification of those policies within IT environments. PaC tools, such as Open Policy Agent, programmatically ensure that policies are consistently applied across the infrastructure, software development lifecycle, and operational processes. PaC enables real-time policy compliance and simplifies governance by treating policy adherence as an integral part of the development pipeline.
Risk assessment identifies, analyzes, and evaluates risks to an organization's information assets. It involves categorizing assets, assessing threats and vulnerabilities, and determining the potential impact of security incidents. Security teams prioritize risks based on the likelihood and impact, focusing on mitigating strategies to protect critical assets effectively.
Static application security testing (SAST) examines source code for potential security vulnerabilities without executing the program. It's performed early in the development lifecycle, enabling developers to identify and remediate security flaws during coding. SAST tools analyze code against a set of predefined rules to detect issues like input validation errors, insecure dependencies, and other common vulnerabilities.
Dynamic application security testing (DAST) assesses applications during runtime, simulating external attacks to identify vulnerabilities. Unlike SAST, DAST evaluates the application from an outsider's perspective, checking for issues like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other flaws exploitable without access to source code. DAST provides insights into real-world attack scenarios and the application's behavior in production.
Software composition analysis (SCA) tools audit codebases for open-source components and their dependencies to identify known security vulnerabilities, licensing issues, and outdated libraries. SCA automates the process of tracking third-party software used in development, crucial for maintaining the security integrity of applications and adhering to compliance standards.
Secrets management refers to the tools and practices for securely handling digital authentication credentials like passwords, tokens, keys, and certificates. Effective secrets management ensures that access to sensitive resources is restricted and auditable, protecting against unauthorized access and minimizing the risk of credential leakage. Secrets management solutions often include secure storage, rotation policies, and automated access controls.